died in the wool ______

To have no set purpose in one's life is the harlotry of the will -Stephen Mackenna-

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

50 yen avocado

On the way back to Yurakucho station after dragging a friend of mine with me to see Free Zone at the filmex film festival,(see it if you can find it. it won awards at the Cannes film festival) we were wandering down a small side street with several green grocers on it.

We walked past one of them that had typical fare at typical prices. Except one thing. Avocados.....for 50 yen. 50 yen! At the exchange rate of 117 yen to the dollar right now, that makes this guy less than 50 cents. Typically, avocado here are about 3 times that price, as was evidenced as walked by a stall later on the street (me with avocado already in hand) at 138 yen.

I was shocked. I asked him if the price is always this cheap, and he said yes. I love using avocados, but they' re awful expensive here, so I rarely buy them.

One of my favorite uses for avocados is, duh, guacamole. A rarity here, I was actually at a Mexican resturant for a friend's birthday party the day before this. I ordred the guacamole, and was almost eating it with a spoon.

It was good and certainly enjoyable. This might be exchanging one gringo ingredient for another, but I really don't like putting tomatoes in my guacamole. Instead, I almost always use red onion. I used the below recipe in one of my cooking classes awhile back. Looks like I'll be making this a lot more now.


2 avocados
1/4-1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
Lime juice
crushed red pepper (preferably by hand)

Use avocados which you can peel the skin from. Cut the avocado in half and twist to remove pit from one half. Remove skin and pit and then cube. Add enough lime juice to keep the avocado from browning (a tsp or so). And onion and red pepper and lightly chop until the ingredients are evenly mixed but the avocado is still somewhat chunky.

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Friday, November 25, 2005


Thanksgiving, over here, is not a holiday. We don't get two days off, there's not huge meal, no organizing of extended family.

I still have managed to celebrate thanksgiving thanks to a friend of a former roommate of mine. Every year she organizes the expats (or in my case 'local-hire) in the area that she knows, and makes a great feast of, outside of the essential thanksgiving staples, carrot soup, bruschetta, and a cheese plate that I probably consume more than half of every year.Last year, I invited most of the attendees over for a little cooking party of my own. We had been talking about jerk spice, and a few of the people had either not heard of it or never tried it(this is japan, after all). That as a base, we spent most of a later organized december day cooking and eating.

But the night before I got a little itch. It was december, and it got me thinking about, what else but christmas. Being half scandanavian, my family, at least at christmas anyway, was pretty die hard about celebrating our culinary heritage, and one of the staples of every christmas was christmas cookies, consisting of three types. One was berlinerkranser, a kind of pretzel-shaped butter cookie sprinkled with pearl sugar. The most popular is krumkake, a thin rolled cookie in crepe-ish form sprinkled with powdered sugar. The final one is sandbakelser, another butter cookie that is pressed into a special sandbakelser tin and baked.

A few years ago, I was hosting a scandanavian culture booth at an international festival in the prefecture I was living in. They wanted each booth to present a cooking class, and as I was thinking about what I could make, these three cookies came to mind. berlinerkranser required special pearl sugar which I couldn't find where I was living. Krumkake require a special baking iron, each costing about $50, that I would need several of if I was to do a cooking class. Sandbakelser were the ones I chose as the easiest to make.

The cookies are extremely easy to make.I used to make these cookies with 4 year olds, disabled childeren and even the elderly. Once the dough is made, you simply press the dough into the special tins (although I often used other molds as they were avaliable) and bake them. Because the dough itself already has so much butter/shortening in it, greasing isn't necessary; in fact the cookies just fall right out. The key to making good sandbakelser is to press the dough THIN.

So I made some of these cookies for my little party ahead of time. When everyone showed up, the whole batch was devoured within a few hours.

These cookies, along with the other two, are the epitome of christmas to me. The taste of the dough, the smell as they bake, remind me of every christmas growing up. My mother, my aunt, and my grandmother always used to make huge batches of each of these cookies. By the time mid-january came around we were all so sick of them, we just wanted to throw them in the trash. But every year in early december, you would get equally excited for your first sandbakelser.


1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp almond(or vanilla)

Prehead oven to 180C (350F) and mix the ingredients in the above order in a large bowl. Continue to add flour until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl (about 2 cups) and becomes a large ball. Pinch off a piece of dough and press into sandbakelser tin until very thin, letting excess dough fall into the bowl. Bake until cookies just start to change from white to light brown (about 8 minutes). Cool until the tins are managable with bare hands. Turn the tin upside down to remove cooke, tapping lightly if necessary. be sure to wipe the tin , including all the grooves, lightly with a dry cloth if reusing the tin with the same batch to prevent cookies from sticking.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005


I've had a slight head cold for the last week or so. I normally just let the virus run its course, but when I was at Seijo Ishii I saw something. Throat drops. They're quite popular here, and unlike American brands, aren't disgusting.

But what drew me into buying these throat drops is the Sudachi flavor that they had.

Japan has a wide range of citrus, of only which a small amount is widely known outside of the country. Two examples I can think of are the Mandarin orange (mikan) and Yuzu.

The sudachi is somewhat smaller than a lime and with a thinner skin. It is grown mostly in Tokushima Prefecture, which is in Shikoku, the eastern of the two main southern islands of Japan (just south of Kobe) It is often added to soft cream, drinks, and other foods.

One of my favourite citrus is the Kabozu. It is similar to the sudachi, but smaller. It is from Oita prefecture, which I lived next to during my time in Kyushu (the southern most island of Japan). I would use kabozu in lots of different things, often simply as a substitute for limes. They are quite sour.

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Wednesday, November 02, 2005

hotaru no haka: live action version

Lest we forget how much we have to eat in the developed world today (actually in memory of 60 years since the end of world war II), Nihon Television broadcast a live action of the story turned animation Hotaru no Haka (Grave of Fireflies). It's the story of a brother and sister struggliing through the firebombings brought by the Americans during world war II.

The ending, though, was dissapointing, where they added this scene in which the older brother, starving with setsuko about to die, meets the mother he was living with. He kind of asks if he can move back into the house with them, and she says 'even if you brought food with you, I still don't have enough to feed my own children.

All that aside, both versions do a great job of describing the desperate food conditions during the war. Food rations, constant servings of soup, White rice is a great luxury (and indeed was for a very long time)

It's hard not to get somewhat emotional seeing all of this. The only reason the Americans remember any damage we did to the Japanese mainland is because of the a-bomb's technological historic siginifigance; if it had been dropped in a different country, we wouldn't remember anything. I wish Americans had to see this movie or something similar to it in school even once in contrast to all the holocaust stuff they show year after year after year. I know it's not really on the same level, and that the Japanese did plenty of awful things that the government tries to forget about (but I didn't learn about that either in school) but I don't really like it that we don't see both sides or the eurocentricism of 'world' history. The message of the movie was that 'no one is a winner in war', and perhaps it would be better if we were taught that message too.

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